Brian Roberts, second-generation head of the family-controlled media company Comcast, defended Comcast's proposed merger with NBC Universal to US lawmakers yesterday.
Roberts (pictured), alongside NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker, answered the queries of first the House subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet then the Senate Judiciary Committee's panel on antitrust and competition issues.
Roberts and Zucker faced criticism for the deal, with senators questioning if the creation of such a large media company will force out smaller, independent operations. In response Roberts assured critics that Comcast "will compete fairly in the marketplace."
Concerns were also raised that NBC Universal programming, which is currently broadcast for free, would become paid content after the merger. Zucker said: "Comcast is committing to free, over-the-air television." Roberts backed up this assertion: "Our goal, our commitment and our actions are to restore NBC and to invest in NBC."
The US lawmakers were carrying out an antitrust review of the merger to ensure the deal will not disadvantage customers.
The merger, first announced in December 2009, will see Comcast acquire a 51% stake in NBC Universal and will combine the assets of the two companies. (Click here to read our coverage of the story) The deal will create one of the largest media companies in the world, with equity of $28 billion, and place Roberts alongside Rupert Murdoch and his News Corp empire. (Click here to read our analysis of the deal)
Comcast was founded in 1963 by Brian's father Ralph Roberts along with Daniel Aaron and Julian Brodsky. The company began as a single-system cable operation and has grown into the largest provider of cable services in the US, with 2008 revenues of $34 billion. Both Ralph and Brian sit on the board of directors.
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